Saturday evening I wandered over to my soon-to-be-hood over on NW 23rd to meet my friend Laura at Escape from New York Pizza to grab a slice and catch up. I snagged a table outside, gave Laura some money and she went inside to order.
I saw him out of the corner of my eye, coming down the street. A 60+ year-old transient, stumbling towards me, mumbling. Laura came out with the pizza (a slice of pepperoni and a slice of mushroom, olive and tomato) and we started eating. The man stopped behind me and continued to mumble.
I started feeling a little uncomfortable – which is unusual for me. I don’t mind giving a few bucks to the homeless now and then, but this guy was creeping me out a little. I strategically moved my purse between my feet. Finally, he moved along to the Kornblatt’s tables next door, which were all empty, save for the basket of condiments on each table.
I took a bite of my pizza – it was greasy, as pizza should be. It was foldable, as NY pizza should be. It tasted okay. The pepperoni was better than the mushroom pizza. The mushroom pizza pretty much had no flavor.
Mr. Transient started digging through the bus bucket beside the Kornblatt’s tables. He pulled some food from it and headed for the condiments. One of the Kornblatt’s dudes came out and grabbed the bus bucket and took it inside. Mr. Transient picked up some Tabasco sauce and put the bottle in his mouth. Then he put it back on the table. Then he went a few tables down. Opened up the horseradish bottle, stuck his fingers in and pulled out a fistful of horseradish and stuck it in his mouth.
At this point, I felt a moral obligation to let the Kornblatt’s people know that their condiments were contaminated by transient fingers. They were livid. Kornblatt dude went bursting through the door: “GET AWAY FROM THE F—ING CONDIMENTS!” Mr. Transient wandered off down the street and Kornblatt dude dumped all the condiments in the garbage. Thank heavens.
After this diversion, I returned to finish my pizza. It was not tasting super great. Kornblatt dude came over to talk to us about Mr. Transient.
“It was disgusting,” Laura said, “He stuck his hands in the horseradish.” I started to feel my chest tighten up, blocked with the bready crust. “We’ve called the police on him already today, but they let him go after 15 minutes. It’s just disgusting.” I was starting to feel like I was going to hurl all over both Laura and the Kornblatt dude. Then I would be on par with Mr. Transient. “I feel bad yelling at him, but you gotta yell at them or else they just keep coming back.”
I half smiled at him while I was starting to panic. I tried drinking my soda. It made it worse. Kornblatt dude walked away. I couldn’t talk. The crust was blocking my airway. I drank Laura’s water and sat there, as the crust slowly made its way down to my stomach. It took about 5 minutes or so.
Mr. Transient II, sitting on the sidewalk behind us, spat on the ground 4 or 5 times.
Truthfully I don’t know if it was the pizza or the transient situation, but my digestive experience at Escape from New York was not a pleasant one. I think next time I will take shelter at Pizzicato across the street. Between the almost vomiting and the spitting and the hands in the horseradish, well, it will be a while before I go back. Sorry, New York.